During the 17th century, inanimate objects appropriated the pictorial space to become the absolute protagonists of a pictorial genre, the still-life. The artists took nature, fruit, flowers, crustaceans, fish and dead game, books and musical instruments as their model, composing them in the paintings. They are paintings intended for the private enjoyment of collectors, amateurs and experts.
Flowers in a glass bowl (1660/1670) by NICOLAS VAN VEERENDAELCollezione Fondazione Cariparma
The bunch of flowers, arranged in small vases, offer themselves to the observer like a precious botanical encyclopedia.
Vase with flowers by JAN BRUEGHEL IL GIOVANECollezione Fondazione Cariparma
Their beauty and their colors stimulate the sight, their perfume the smell, and their transience is, for people, a food for thought on their condition as fragile and transitory as they are.
Tulips testify to the real craze that spread for this large and solitary flower brought from Constantinople around the middle of the 16th century and immediately appreciated.
The columbella in the foreground tells of another passion of the time, that is the collection of shells, "wonders" from distant worlds to be kept in the studios and cabinets of wonders.
Bowl and vase with flowers, fruit and vegetables in open-air by ARTISTA DI AMBITO FIAMMINGO OLANDESECollezione Fondazione Cariparma
In the Nordic area, the Reformation's aversion to cult images determines the success of these paintings with profane subjects. The taste of the mercantile bourgeoisie is oriented towards paintings of objects, interiors or landscapes.
Laid table with crockery, crab, bread and fruit (1642/1645) by PETER CLAESZCollezione Fondazione Cariparma
The laid table has great prominence: it’s carefully set with white tablecloths on which are displayed crockery, drinks and food that the artist composes in an apparently casual way;
the atmosphere is rarefied, marked by sobriety, as demonstrated by the glass with the ashlar foot and the pewter jug, in harmony with the moderation of the Calvinist religion.
Still life with fishes by GIUSEPPE RECCOCollezione Fondazione Cariparma
The subject portrayed by Giuseppe Recco, an important exponent of a family of Neapolitan painters, declares the proximity to a seafaring environment.
The freshly unloaded catch is on stage; still wet silver scales exude the dampness of the sea.
The Seaweed and the sea lettuce refer to the freshness of fish ready to be prepared in the copper cauldron.
Birds, grapes, peaches, mushrooms and game bag (1700/1715) by PIETRO NAVARRACollezione Fondazione Cariparma
Most of the still-lifes with hunting trophies tell the interests of the aristocracy, which boasts hereditary privileges and sovereign rights over the territories. They become the symbol of an immediately recognizable social condition.
Composition of a after-hunt in a Medici vase (1701/1701) by DIRCK VALKENBURGCollezione Fondazione Cariparma
The art of hunting is exalted more for its nobility than for its bloody and brutal aspects, certainly combined with the sensual pleasure of "victory" over nature.
The painting shows the habits of hunters, such as the use of hanging the animal upside down. The description is so meticulous that it shows the shades of color with which the painter renders the hair of the hare's chest
and the iridescent shimmering plumage of the duck, giving back almost a tactile impression. The whole, thanks to the subtlety of the calm colors and the refinement of the details, emanates a profound harmony and a perfect aesthetic.
Still life with fishes and vegetables by FELICE BOSELLICollezione Fondazione Cariparma
Felice Boselli is a still-life painter, strongly linked to his land for the subjects he represents in the large canvases.
Still life with fishes, vegetables, cats and guinea pig by FELICE BOSELLICollezione Fondazione Cariparma
His clients belong to the major families of the Parma area such as the Meli Lupi of Soragna and the Sanvitale of Fontanellato.
His artworks are never completely inanimate, there is always the presence of some animal that stealthily wanders attracted by apparently abandoned food.
The composition is rich, triumphant, full of autumn food referring to the precept of the abstinence from meat: vegetables and fish show the fertility of the land and the wisdom of those who manage them well.
The food we can see in the artwork is typical of the Po Valley and it’s linked to auspicious elements of fertility: the dove or the guinea pig that moves regardless of the cat, which is the traditional acronym of the painter.
Basket of figs (1880/1882) by GIOVANNI SEGANTINICollezione Fondazione Cariparma
In the second half of the 19th century, still-life offers the possibility of composing everyday objects according to the effect the painter wants to achieve.
This allowed the artists of the time to create luministic experiments: they painted inside the studio but from the "real", a test-bed for realism.
Segantini entrusts the natural atmosphere to the contrast between color and light; the use of white enhances the chromatism of the fruit bowl, the leaves, the ripe figs with a cracked skin, which evokes their scent and flavor.
Still life with asparagus, artichokes, courgette flowers, plums and cherries (1935/1940) by GIOVANNI BARTOLENACollezione Fondazione Cariparma
The concept of nature in pose is perfectly referable to the vegetables and fruit in Giovanni Bartolena’s painting. The painter, removing any furnishings from the canvas, portrays the products of the garden in spring.
These are modest foods, products of a friendly nature, which perhaps he himself picked up and composed in his studio.
The exuberance of the stroke and the glaze of the palette define the fruit and the different vegetables in their fleshiness and freshness thanks to the color harmony and contrasts.
Still life with apples and pomegranate (XIX sec. inizi) by DONNINO POZZICollezione Fondazione Cariparma
This is a lacking and almost poor basket of apples painted by Donnino Pozzi. There is little fruit,
the woven wicker container is modest, and it is certainly made by the expert hands of the same farmer who knew how to build everything he needed for his business in the countryside and in everyday life.
Still life - Spring (1958) by BRUNO ZONICollezione Fondazione Cariparma
Spring inspires Bruno Zoni's canvas, but the season is almost unreal in the cold chromatic mixture, where everyday objects blend with natural elements in a perspective that has an alienating effect.
Interior (1963) by GOLIARDO PADOVACollezione Fondazione Cariparma
Goliardo Padova is linked to the collages of Braque, to the rhythms of Matisse, to the material painting of Morlotti, since he constructs the interior in a synthetic way, with an alternation of solids and voids highlighted by muted tones.
Still life with a pan for roasted chestnuts and corn cob (1990/1995) by CLAUDIO SPATTINICollezione Fondazione Cariparma
The representation of suspended time in Spattini's still-lifes is tinged with bright colors, with suggestions drawn from a Po Valley everyday life made up of commonly used objects
like the perforated iron pan for roasting chestnuts, the small stand with seasonal fruit, apples and corn that take us back to the end of summer.
Interior (1971) by GIANFRANCO MANARACollezione Fondazione Cariparma
Gianfranco Manara represents a state of mind, a reflection on the human condition and on the transience that compares man with all the elements of nature described with the subdued tones of a soft pastel palette.
Text by Fondazione Cariparma and Artificio Società Cooperativa